This Day In History: 03/18

Monday, March 18, 2002

There was another good episode of Alias on last night -- it's a show that's gotten continually better as the season progresses. I'd have to say that it's even better than The X-Files was in its heyday. I watched that show fairly regularly in its middle seasons until it got stupid. Alias manages to be cheesily entertaining while having a smart, cohesive story .

I picked up a copy of the Moulin Rouge soundtrack this weekend while out and about. It has covers and originals from various songs in the movie, and there's some really interesting montages on it, if you can ignore the vocal stylings of Ewan "Belty" MacGregor.

The final composition faculty candidate came today, and he was easily the best teacher/theorist of the three. His music didn't really do much for me -- it was difficult notey music that sometimes seemed to derive itself from math and theory rather than inspiration. I brought in Loneliness for a mock lesson, as I did with the other two candidates, and his comments seemed to be in much the same vein as the others. I wish I had a cleaner recording of that piece. It's one of those recordings that means well, but could be a lot tighter around the edges.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2003

I introduced minor keys in sight singing today and the students picked up on it surprisingly quickly. By the end, they were shifting melodies between major and minor with facility. Singing in minor keys through the end of the semester will be such a downer though. Good thing that the Sight Singing Clown will be making a guest appearance at least twice this semester.

Booty beat the snot out of a brand new bag of bagels last night while I was asleep. There were no survivors.

New pictures on the Photos page. You don't even have to expand the menu anymore, you lazy bastards.

Dick Smothers Jr. wants to be 'Orson Welles of porn'
Tobacco Farmer Holds D.C. Police at Bay
France would sacrifice Pope
Man sues self

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Thursday, March 18, 2004

The office is picking up and moving to Reston tomorrow, so I'm going to take Friday and next Monday off to do housal things like painting and getting the new windows installed. Next weekend will be when I actually start living in the house.

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    qimble, nuke the urizone, starport origami, vinny ba ba joe conigliaro, johnny carson quotes may a camel

El Al planted gun on passenger
She didn't know she hurt someone and felt terrible about [throwing a microphone stand into a crowded audience], but she didn't feel she was guilty of a crime either.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

After days of procrastination, I've finally posted the backlog of cuddly cat pictures to the Photos section. There's also a six-part series entitled Snuggles. The plot of this series is easily accessible for kids of all ages, as it involves two kittens sleeping together in various beds around the house.

In addition, here are a few new cat movies for those of you who think that the Internet should be a phantasmagoria of moving bits.

When Cats Are High (1 MB WMV)
Desperate Foodcats (475KB WMV)
The Shower Game (940KB WMV)
Light Show (2MB WMV)
Booty and Sydney (674KB WMV)

Anna said I was spelling our cat's name wrong, so it's name is now officially Sydney instead of Sidney.

Stop Sexy Cheerleading
Man Found Napping in Car with Holdup Note
A novel approach to bullies
Sex Doll Sparks Bomb Alert

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stertorous: (adj.) Characterized by stertor or heavy snoring.

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

When I heard this word, I felt that a mechanical, methodical snoring motor would be far too easy so I thought of other ways to express the title. I somehow ended up with this Hindemith meets Swearingen concoction. I'm not sure where this would go next, but the beauty of Museday is that it doesn't matter.

This fragment also suffers from the common ailment that it sounds completely different than you remember after you sleep on it and listen again in the morning. A rewrite might be better supported with more repetitions of the melody before spinning it away, but thirty seconds is thirty seconds.

What you don't know about living in space
Fake fears over Ethiopia's gold
Casino insider tells almost all

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Memory Day: Old Computer Games

In the last two years of the 1980s, when Becca was either not yet born or incapable of walking under her own power, computer games were slightly stagnant. Infocom had been bought out by Activision, so text adventures were on their way out, and Sierra's "Quest" games were just starting to rise. For a kid who thrived on computer games (and who did not own a Nintendo until the 90s) this dearth of games resulted in some interesting, yet horrible, purchases.

The number one rule when it comes to buying games is that you never buy a game based on a movie or a TV show, because it'll be nothing but a sodden lumpy mess of corn feces, crafted solely to steal money from parents. Unfortunately, it took awhile to learn this lesson.

As a child, I probably watched the movie, Willow, over a hundred times. Today, all I can remember about the plot is that a short guy had to carry and protect a baby and could never leave it behind or bad things would happen (this is also the plot of any Family Life class with a flour-bag baby). This game consisted of lots of exposition on scrolls, and horribly degraded movie stills shown in 4-colour CGA. The first level had you running across an overhead map while being chased by Death Dogs.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was released in 1988 on the PC, and came with a whopping FOUR levels. Level one and three were side-scrolling racing ventures where you tried to drive Benny the Cab down the street while jumping on buildings and avoiding oil slicks. In level two, you had to grab napkins off tables while penguin waiters put more down, without getting touched by a penguin (which would get you ejected from the club and force you to start the whole game over). The last level had you wandering through the Acme Factory using the Singing Sword to fight bad guys.

With only four levels, you'd think this game would be over quickly, but the controls were so horrible that you might as well have been a handless Saudi thief trying to play Dragon's Lair. I'm not sure if I ever actually beat it.

The last game I ever bought based on a movie was Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. In this game, you had to travel through time in a phone booth clicking on famous people so they would join you. The game had primitive sound capabilities, although the entirety of the sound effects was a clip of "Excellent!" and a clip of "Bogus!". I beat this game within 20 minutes of installing it, and was so crestfallen that my dad agreed to return it to the store, telling them that it didn't work on our computer because of the copy protection.

The Mad Libs game wasn't based on a movie, but I just recalled it the other day when Rebecca found a Mad Libs book in a bargain bin for a dollar. This game came with only 4 Mad Libs stories, which led to surprising replayability since you could eventually remember where the words fit in and write a sensible (and usually dirty) plot. The highlight of this game was that it had a primitive-text-to-speech convertor that would read the stories aloud after you submitted your words. Unfortunately, the convertor did not understand phonics very well -- as a teaching tool, it just taught us to spell the word any way possible so it would sound right when the robot read it. We also may have taught the robot to swear.

What were some memorable computer games from your younger years?

Bat stows away on the space shuttle
Mystery condition results in a spineless hedgehog
Bus driver suspended after beating toy seal

tagged as memories, games | permalink | 6 comments

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

24, Season Seven:
The seventh season of 24 is EASILY the best season to date, surpassing both the fourth and fifth seasons which had previously been the high points. A new setting (DC), fresh perspective, and new characters that aren't all petty office backstabbers kept me watching to the end. The last four episodes are mostly unnecessary, and the finale kind of peters out, but this season is eminently watchable (in spite of geographic inconsistencies like the scuba tunnels crisscrossing DC, or the Metro station in "the Adams Morgan district"). Although we've seen much of it before, this season somehow manages to feel fresh (see also, Will Smith) without simply making the explosions bigger and the casualty rates higher.

Final Grade: A-

Zombieland:
Zombieland is a short, light-hearted zombie flick written as a road trip movie. The movie drags a little in the middle third, and overuses floating screen text more than Fringe, but it's funny, pleasant to watch, and over quickly. However, I did learn from this movie that Jesse Eisenberg is incapable of starring in a movie without evoking an uncontrollable urge to fast forward through all his scenes (see also, Adventureland).

Final Grade: B-

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon:
This game plays almost identically to the 2005 Fire Emblem game for the GameCube, which is not a bad thing in the least. Turn-based strategy games are perfectly suited for handhelds, and this game makes it easier to play for a few minutes at a time. Normal mode is easy (and only challenging if you like to keep every character alive), and Hard mode is ridiculously hard. I still find myself picking this game up for another round, even though I've already beaten it. There's nothing new at all here, and the music and graphics are "fine", but those aspects aren't usually why you'd be playing a turn-based strategy game.

Final Grade: A-

Nurse' Union: Care does not include sex
Dentist used paper clips in root canal
Vegans turning against each other

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Friday, March 18, 2011

List Day: Whatever Happened To...

  • Minecraft: I haven't logged into the Minecraft server since Christmas time, when I wrote "HO HO" on the beach in dirt blocks, but ran out of resources for a third HO (this also does not bode well for my hip-hop career). I played this game long past the point where it was fun, at Snood addiction levels, and burnt out completely on it. I also think it's a little obnoxious that it won so many awards when it's not even done yet -- where's the incentive to finish your game development? Finally, I believe Minecraft may have exacerbated my nearsightedness, although this isn't a recognized medical prognosis.

  • Interactive Fiction: After updating Augmented Fourth two years ago, I actually dusted off the source code for my incomplete game, Robin Caruso, my dramatic magnum opus whose plot twists were all eventually stolen by Castaway, LOST, and Fight Club. The problem was that it was about 60% done and written in the old language, Inform 6. I wanted to learn the new language, Inform 7, but porting the half-finished code into a brand new language would have been more boring than writing a brand new game.

  • My Wisdom Teeth: I have a new dentist at the intersection of 7100 and Elden Street who is immediately better than the previous two, because he doesn't try to sell me tooth whitener, and he doesn't milk my insurance by making me schedule separate inspections and cleanings when it's been more than a year since my last visit. My teeth have not shifted a whit in 5 years, and the smart ones are still in the back, hanging out. I am also 31-years-cavity-free.

  • The median sign on Church Road: It was broken this morning -- people continue to run it over and city works continues to put up new ones. If people run over your "go around the median" sign over 10 times in a year, that's your cue to either reinforce them with spiked concrete and gunpowder, or replace it with a final sign that says "run me over, we don't care anymore".

  • Name That Tune contests: I think I've exhausted the spectrum of Name That Tune ideas, unless someone can come up with a way to smell music. Maybe I'll repost the lip-sync contest on YouTube one of these days for nostalgia's sake.

Etsy users irked after dildo purchases exposed to the world
Poker bots invade online gambling
Landslide closes picturesque Highway 1

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

tagged as data, day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Anatomy of a Migraine

I used to get migraines a few times per month, but that tempo has greatly decreased over the past few years. On Sunday, I had the first since June 2013.

Migraines are not the same as regular headaches. Because people often don't understand why people can't just "walk them off", here is a behind-the-scenes look into my own as a PSA.

  • Root Causes: Unconfirmed. Often related to changes in weather / air pressure, and sometimes related to computer usage or very bright, burning lights or camera flashes. Mine have never been food-related.

  • Phase I (Minute 0 - 10): Miniscule visual artifacts invade my vision like "eye floaters" on steroids. Where I can fling eye floaters around through quick eye movements, migraine artifacts stay in one place, perpetually blocking my sight with pulsating white noise, like one of those disposable cameras that inserts penises into your pictures. The best course of action at this point is to shut everything down -- cancel whatever I'm doing and retreat to a dark bedroom with eyes closed, and hope to fall asleep before the next phase progresses.

  • Phase II (Minute 10 - 50): Visual artifacts increase in a positive feedback loop -- my eyes try to compensate for the original artifacts and the eye strain generates more artifacts in other parts of the eye. The white noise crescendoes by example, like a trumpet section following a lead trumpeter who's playing too loudly, until my vision is 100% affected. The faster I can get into a situation where I can close my eyes and be in the dark, the farther from 100% I can stay, which is important in the next phase.

  • Phase III (Minute 50 - 60): To equate migraines with World of Warcraft concepts, Phase II is the rogue's Sinister Strike action, gradually building up to the Eviscerate finishing move of Phase III. The amount of stacked visual artifacts I have accrued in Phase II translates into direct damage to one focused area of my brain, usually in the left-central or right-central lobes. All visual artifacts vanish, and my vision becomes almost too clear. The headache portion of the timeline starts now, and the pain is front-and-center, interfering with all mental and physical activities. It's as if my brain pain is talking too loudly, like an advertisement at the gas station pump. If I try to do anything during this time, I will likely throw up or fall over.

  • Phase IV (Hour 1 - 4): It can take up to four hours for the primary pain to subside to a level where I can resume normal operations. If I was able to mitigate Phase II / III successfully by napping, I will hopefully just be waking up towards the end of this phase. The bulk of this phase is spent in bed, doing nothing.

  • Phase V (Hour 5 - 48): Although the primary pain has subsided, there will still be an aftermath ghost pain for over a day following the event. I can still do normal activities, but it will hurt if I cough or move my head too quickly.

tagged as random | permalink | 5 comments

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Convocation

It was seventeen years ago yesterday that I performed the first movement of The Hero, a four-movement, 21-minute symphonic work for a wind ensemble of 20 people. Not feeling up to the task of making friends with 20 musicians, I did the next best thing and created a piano reduction of the score and then hired an accompanist.

Had I thought ahead further, I would have hired an accompanist with 20 fingers, not 10 -- one finger for each member of the wind ensemble to address the fact that nearly every note from the score ended up in the reduction. It wasn't a reduction so much as a stave clogging, similar to the effect you see on I-95 towards Kings Dominion every Saturday morning.

Here is an excerpt (605KB MP3), from the performance (recorded on cassette tape in our state of the art recording lab). I really should have paid Pam Trent more money.

I also should have made the first movement about two minutes shorter, as I seem to have a track record of getting very tired whenever a song ends with an extended cadenza (see also, the Arutunian on my recital).

tagged as music | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, March 18, 2016

Automated Delivery Day

I renewed my subscription to WIRED magazine and was offered a free gift subscription with no way to express that I didn't want it. My workaround for those required online form fields did not seem to save them any money.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

List Day: 8 Shortcomings of Newer Firefox Versions

Firefox has been my primary web browser for over 15 years, since it was called Mozilla Firebird. Over the past few years, I never liked the direction the User Experience (UX) was going in but always appreciated that I could overrule their awful changes with add-ons.

Firefox 57 rewrote the add-on framework which probably did a great deal to erase technical debt, but the new framework didn't include all of the same hooks that were originally available. Most egregiously, this broke the awesome add-on, Tab Mix Plus, which is a key part of my workflow. This is why I still have an old version of Firefox installed on at least one computer in the house:

  1. I want the address bar to be above the tabs rather than inside the tabs.
  2. I want a "Close Current Tab" button in a consistent location on the tab bar, rather than chasing the "X" on individual tabs as they resize.
  3. I want to be able to lock a tab so it cannot be changed or closed by accident. I want to be able to mark a tab for auto-refresh at periodic intervals.
  4. I want new tabs to open at the end of the tab bar, rather than to the right of the current tab.
  5. I want to quickly change the search engine for several new searches from the search box without having to go into Options.
  6. I want status information on a dedicated status bar rather than a distracting pop-up bar of varying lengths.
  7. I want to be able to set a local file as a homepage.
  8. I want in-line links to open in the same order as bookmarks.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, on March 18, 2000, I attended an underwhelming brass master class at George Mason University.

It was the final weekend of Tech's spring break and I was at home for an in-person intern interview at FGM (where I learned that they had already hired me and just wanted to chat) and a periodic "give up Ethernet for Lent" penance where I was forced to use my parents' 56KB dialup for a week.

On this Saturday, I drove to Mason for a master class put on by the two trumpeters from the Canadian Brass (Romm and Lindemann at the time, if my memory still serves). In my subsequent journal entry, I wrote that the class "was interesting, but not particularly helpful. More of a public interest type of class". I had hoped for some solid trumpet performance tips and ended up with random people asking "who came up with the idea to wear sneakers on stage?" It was essentially a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything before its time.

In fact, the only memorable aspects of the afternoon were bumping into a blind trumpeter I knew from high school (colloquially, not physically) and chatting with a cute senior flute player from Mason before the master class began.

The next day, I packed up my desktop computer and giant monitor, picked up Anna and Rick (a.k.a "Gold Medal") and made the 4 hour trip back to Tech.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, March 18, 2022

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Hadestown, Original Broadway Cast Recording:
Hadestown is a retelling of the Greek myth about Orpheus and Eurydice, with catchy tunes that easily could have been on the soundtrack of the old TV series, Treme. I really enjoyed the deep bass parts of Patrick Page. The first Act is a little more memorable than the second, but the whole thing is a fun listen.

Final Grade: B

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree:
I previously only knew Baldree as one of the game designers on Torchlight, but apparently he's also gained reknown as a narrator of fantasy audiobooks. This is his first original novel and tells the "slice of life" tale of an orc who's tired of adventuring and wants to open up a coffee shop. I enjoyed the pleasant tale and the character development -- this is a perfect low-stakes morsel to insert between heavier epic fantasy tales.

Final Grade: B

Soul (PG):
We're watching a lot of Disney movies to justify the cost of a Disney+ subscription. This one stars Evil Mike Jamie Foxx as a middle school band director whose true love is jazz piano. It's slightly similar to Inside Out, in that it tries to attach tangible representations to intangible concepts, and is at its best when anchored firmly in the real world. The ending felt a little too "pat" for me, but it was a fun movie. On Disney+.

Final Grade: B-

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

 

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